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Bill seeks to eliminate state park entrance fees for Oklahoma residents

A bill moving through the legislative process could end some parking fees at state parks, including at Lake Thunderbird State Park.
Kyle Phillips
For Oklahoma Voice
A bill moving through the legislative process could end some parking fees at state parks, including at Lake Thunderbird State Park.

Oklahoma residents may soon be able to enter state parks for free.

The Senate Tourism and Wildlife Committee on Monday passed Senate Bill 1253 that would remove entrance and day-use fees for residents at state parks.

The bill, by Sen. George Burns, R-Pollard, passed by a vote of 10-0 and heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Sterling Zearley, director of state parks, said the measure would cost $1.75 million. The dollars stay in the local park to fund operations, he said.

A day pass for an in-state resident is $8, while out-of-state visitors pay $10, said Chase Horn, a Department of Tourism and Recreation spokesperson.

An annual pass for a resident is $60, while out-of-state visitors pay $75, Horn said.

For fiscal year 2023, the state sold 83,263 in-state and 173,057 out-of-state parking passes, Horn said.

The parking passes went into effect in 2020, Horn said.

If the bill becomes law, it does not impact the fees to reserve a campsite or to stay in a lodge, Horn said.

Sen. Kevin Matthews, D-Tulsa, said he supported the idea, but was concerned about the lost revenue for park operations.

“I wonder about getting funding before we take away the fee,” Matthews said.

Burns said he had another bill in the works to increase funding to state parks.

He said it was important that a family on a limited income be able to visit a state park and have a picnic without being charged.

Oklahoma Voice is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Oklahoma Voice maintains editorial independence.

Barbara Hoberock is a senior reporter with Oklahoma Voice. She began her career in journalism in 1989 after graduating from Oklahoma State University. She began with the Claremore Daily Progress and then started working in 1990 for the Tulsa World. She has covered the statehouse since 1994 and served as Tulsa World Capitol Bureau chief. She covers statewide elected officials, the legislature, agencies, state issues, appellate courts and elections.
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